Bill Would Make Bogus 911 Calls A Crime

by Joe Shortsleeve
BOSTON (WBZ) WBZ has learned that legislation will be filed Monday that would make it a crime to make bogus calls to 911 operators.

Non-emergency calls to the emergency line are a huge problem.

More than 300,000 calls a year taken at the wireless 911 center in Framingham are not for real emergencies.

Many are downright abusive.

"Well the issue is the system gets congested with all these inappropriate calls from people calling for directions or complaining about road construction," said Tom Ashe, the manager of wireless 911.

State Police estimate that 1,000 wireless 911 calls each day are for non-emergencies. A thousand tying up dispatcher after dispatcher for precious minutes.

Here's an example:

911 Operator: "What is your emergency?"

Caller: "Well I just want to tell you guys (expletive) thanks a lot for telling us about the construction on 495. You didn't put up one (expletive) sign and I am (expletive) sitting here in traffic (expletive) (at) 11 o'clock at night. I have kids in the (expletive) car. Thanks a lot."

State Senator Jim Timilty, (D) of Attleboro, has heard enough.

As chairman of the Public Safety Committee, he will file legislation Monday to make it a crime for people to tie up emergency 911 lines.

"Somebody who needs the help won't get the help because someone is taking out their frustrations on a 911 dispatcher," he said.

"I don't want to see that happen. That's why we made it a year jail or a $1,000 fine."

Only the most abusive callers would be subject to arrest.

But right now that could easily be more 100 callers each week.

States like Tennessee and Georgia have already passed laws making bogus 911 calls a crime. Tennessee has collected more than $400,000 in fines.